Britain must end ‘modern slavery’ of asylum-seeking children

Britain’s Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s government has literally shirked responsibility and obligation to offer to all – irrespective of status – protection, security and shelter. Picture: Supplied

Britain’s Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s government has literally shirked responsibility and obligation to offer to all – irrespective of status – protection, security and shelter. Picture: Supplied

Published Aug 6, 2023


THE UK government – oftentimes self-proclaimed champion of human rights – has been found guilty of modern-day slavery and gross suppression of the rights of children in a scathing report by the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council.

Migration is one of the most divisive topics in the body politic of the United Kingdom (UK). Not long ago, Downing Street had resolved to whisk away to Rwanda in east Africa hordes of migrants in pursuit of better life-chances in the UK.

It took a court order to put an abrupt halt to the widely condemned government policy that many human rights bodies had argued was at variance with civilised norms and practices.

But so determined is the government of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak in subjugating desperate asylum seekers fleeing conflict and hardships from their countries of origin.

The Conservative-led government has been placing under-age asylum seekers in hotels – on their own, for awfully lengthy periods despite public protestations. By outsourcing the provision of services for unaccompanied children, Sunak’s government has literally shirked responsibility and obligation to offer to all – irrespective of status – protection, security and shelter.

A team of experts appointed by the UN Human Rights Commission (UNHCR) has appealed to the UK government to show a bit of heart when dealing with people in distress, such as asylum seekers, particularly the youth and children.

Methinks it is not too much to ask. Modern UK’s international development and prosperity were premised on the blood and sweat of the oppressed peoples from the multitudes of the former colonies of the British Empire.

The legacy of the British colonialism, and imperialism, still runs adversely too deep in the socio-economic architecture of almost all the former colonies. The English language, values and cultures, among others, continue to be dominant in societies where indigenous knowledge systems are mischievously overwhelmed.

Not only that, in many instances where the United States (US) military launches attacks against geopolitical adversaries in faraway places, the British are almost inevitably in tow.

The immediate example that comes to mind is the illegal invasion of Iraq in 2003 on baseless grounds that the then Iraqi leader, Saddam Hussein, possessed weapons of mass destruction.

Although the invasion was led by the then US president George W Bush ably supported by the then UK PM Tony Blair, Washington’s foreign policy has largely remained unchanged irrespective of the era or party in power.

For example, when former US president Barack Obama came to power as the first black president of the US – making him arguably the most powerful man on earth – he led the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato) into the invasion of Libya to oust the nemesis of the West, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi.

Obama was in full material support of the Libyan mobs that ran amok across Libya, at the time a bread basket of Africa. They hunted down Colonel Muammar Gaddafi out of hiding, raped him before brutally killing him. That Obama was a US president of African descent wreaking havoc in Mother Africa continues to hurt to this day.

I raise these historical realities, and truths, in order to paint a contextual picture of why – at the least – the UK government that is led by Sunak, whose parents were themselves migrants once upon a time, should exhibit a greater appreciation for the plight of others.

That is the least that humanity requires from Sunak and the world’s sitting governments – protection of the weak against the powerful.

It pained me to read the UN report on the improper treatment of unaccompanied under-age asylum seekers that Downing Street elected to place in hotels, thereby ensuring that responsibility for their welfare and safety lay elsewhere.

This is precisely the umbrage that the UNHRC has taken up against the UK government. A large number of the asylum-seeking children has since disappeared from their leaky “hotels of safety”. According to the UNHRC statistics, since 2021 alone 4 600 unaccompanied children were placed in six different hotels by the UK authorities.

Wait for it … Four hundred and forty (440) of them have since disappeared! Suffer the children! As of January this year, some 220 of the missing children remained unaccounted for. Most of them were Albanians, although the entire asylum-seeking population comprises of several other nationalities.

According to the UNHRC experts who probed the petrifying saga of the children in distress, “the practice has allegedly developed in a climate of increasing hostility towards victims of trafficking and contemporary forms of slavery, refugees, asylum seekers and migrants”.

In my book, this is a human rights issue of greater importance, since it involves children. In the same way that the British government is wont to make loud noises against reports of child soldiers in war-torn places around the world, they must, I contend, be exemplary in good behaviour.

The recent case of allegations that the Russian authorities had relocated Ukrainian children from the Donbass region to a place inside the Russian Federation had been turned into a geopolitical hot potato that saw the UK, among other Nato allies, lead a charge for the International Criminal Court (ICC) to issue a warrant of arrest for the Russian President Vladimir Putin.

This is despite the fact that Russia is not a signatory to the Rome Statute. At issue here, the UK and Western allies would have us believe, is the plight of the children who were relocated against their will.

The Kremlin has since argued that the relocation was effected for the safety of the children as the Donbass region has been under a constant bombardment of the Ukrainian forces since 2014 when it voted to secede from the Kyiv administration.

I want to argue that the same concern that the UK and its Nato/European Union (EU) allies are displaying in Donbass, should extend to the plight of children who have gone missing under the watch of the UK government, and remain untraceable to this day. There is a lawful charge to answer.

Whatever has happened to the poor little ones, wherever they are kept (against their will), only God knows.

If the UK government fails to find it in their heart to rescind their inhumane policies towards unaccompanied minors seeking asylum in Britain, someone should escalate the matter to the international courts.

And, now that the matter is seized with the UNHRC, I would suggest that it be placed before the UN Security Council where authority lies to implement whatever resolutions against any state.

Playing political games with military toys is one thing, but playing games with the lives of defenceless children seeking refuge from a supposedly civilised regime is morally reprehensible and downright inexcusable.

I am acutely aware about the imposing nature of the Western hegemony in international relations. However, the excesses and cruelty of a unipolar world order should not be allowed to go unpunished, even if the perpetrator is the once mighty British Empire.